Healthcare is making bold but incremental moves: Takeaways from Health 2.0

This was my third time attending the Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, CA. I always come away learning something new, validating certain hypotheses and making new friends. This year wasn’t very different, but there was a sense of realism this time.

Buzzword Fatigue and Reality Check

Whether on stage or in the networking breaks, people were not just speaking of Blockchain, AI or machine learning. There seemed to be Buzzword fatigue. In fact, I even heard someone say, “Buzzwords are buzzwords. Yes, there are cases where AI and machine learning are proving to be beneficial, but a solution cannot be viable or better just because it is based on blockchain. Real-world problems are being solved even now by low-tech solutions like text messaging.” I am pleased that not only is the Healthcare industry continuing to adopt technology and experiment, but we are learning what technology should be applied and when.

Bold Moves in Healthcare

Poppy Crum’s session on “Empathetic Tech: Enhancing Human Interactions” was of particular interest. As a neuroscientist, she discussed known and new applications of phenotypes, but she also described how the human ear can be like a USB port, which was fascinating. The Bold Moves in Healthcare session was one that especially resonated with me given our mission at illuminate health, which is to be the Digital Care Assistant to the consumer. Companies like Aetna and Quil Health are all working on assisting consumers with what to do and when they should do it. Whether it is via partnerships like Aetna with Apple, or Quil with Comcast, it’s also about meeting consumers where they are…even if it is in front of the television set, said Ben Wanamaker from Aetna and Carina Edwards from Quil Health.

All entrepreneurs in digital health can have an impact

For digital health startups, companies like Omada Health and Livongo are trailblazers to a large degree. In the non-healthcare consumer world, a couple of hundred thousand users might not be as big a deal, but in digital health, high-quality sustainable consumer engagement delivering long-term value triumphs over short-term user acquisition. Glen Tullman of Livongo was asked about increasing competition, and I loved his response: “Yes there is competition, but there are close to 32 million diabetics out there – we only have a percent of them covered.” So for us startups, there is still so much need for improvement in healthcare. There is enough for all entrepreneurs to make a difference.

How technology can continue to innovate

Additional nuggets of wisdom from the provider-focused sessions for technology innovation were:

  • The clinician cannot and should not be out of the loop. Technology should be an enabler, an extension of the clinician and that trusted relationship.
  • Health systems have big problems. Disaggregate big problems and solve parts of them, said Aaron Martin of Providence Ventures.
  • Show the hospital how they will implement your product, tech tools, training, and playbook. Focus on the problem-solving and business model; the amount of customization will follow.
  • Often it’s about being around long enough, for the market to get there or the health system to notice… and it might take a long time (think an 18-month sales cycle with another 6-12 months to implement your solution).
  • Demonstrate real-world evidence so clinicians can trust the technology.
  • Pay attention to the workflow, actually following through each use case and numerous scenarios associated with it. Of course, you don’t want to create additional work for the clinical staff, but you do want backups in place.

Of course, last but definitely not the least, we got to launch illuminate health on stage!

A version of this first appeared on LinkedIn.

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